Some called him a madman. To others, he was just an abusive S.O.B. who had created his own high-security compound outside of town. Whatever the case, he was a known outlaw, who had been known to have ordered the killings of people in his own gang. The rest of the people in his compound were kept as prisoners, and often abused. Occasionally, he had assaulted his neighbors. The state police had fought him back into his own compound, and for several years had kept him contained. Part of the “deal” they had cut with him was that he would disarm; however, he had either failed to disarm or at least worked hard to give that impression. He continued to mock the state authorities, throwing them an occasional bone but remaining defiant and incompliant. Most communities in the area were in favor of leaving him alone, as long as he only abused the hostages in his own compound.
Enter the Lone Ranger and Tonto. What do they do? Listen to public opinion and do nothing, or take action and set the hostages free?
A large band of outlaws – renegade soldiers, rustlers and gunfighters – had been terrorizing the area settlements for years, striking suddenly, and leaving death and destruction in their wake. Their only motivation appeared to be a hatred for civilization; their leader, Black Bart, expressed ideals that were nothing more than a facade for sociopathic attitudes. These outlaws roamed the countryside in smaller groups, often living among the settlements disguised as ordinary, hard-working citizens. As such, the local sheriffs were either unable or unwilling to take them on.
As the story begins, the Lone Ranger and Tonto just broken the stronghold of the outlaws and had sent them running. Several times the Lone Ranger, with the cooperation of a few brave lawmen, had been able to successfully thwart their plans. Now, Black Bart, in true outlaw style, sent word out to all of the settlements that he was out to get the Lone Ranger and any who would help him. Suddenly, our hero finds himself being distrusted and even hated by those who live in fear, or who naively believe that they will be safe, if only the lawmen would leave Black Bart’s band alone.
Most of you have picked up on the allegories, and yeah, I know, the Lone Ranger doesn’t always wear a white hat. However, here’s the point of all of this: very few of us, in a more localized setting, would take a side against those who believe they have a moral obligation to enforce the law. I don’t know of anyone who’d support disbanding our local police force (or disarming them) so that the criminals would roam free. Will the police ever rid the city of crime completely? I don’t think so; however, is that any reason not to enforce the law?
Paul admonishes us to support our government, because it is their task to protect us and to fight evil. As Paul says of those in authority, “he doesn’t bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” (Romans 13). So, obviously God is not opposed to the State use of force to control crime. Now the question is, if we have the ability to fight evil and rescue the oppressed outside of our borders, where does our moral obligation lie? Do we take a “pacifist” stance? Who is more moral?
Things are not always so clear when they are put into different contexts. One of my sons last night commented that one of the things that makes Christianity so plausible was that there are so many things that are not clear (a false religion would take steps to do away with the gray areas).
We can debate wisdom, we can question intent – but, we definitely err if we assume things are black or white.
So, Kemo Sabe, what now?